The Cosmos Route in South Africa comes alive in autumn when the flowers it is named for dance at the roadside. You could simply revel in oceans of cerise, pink and white. Or you could visit one of the mines – a crucial part of South Africa's mineral wealth.

Did you know?

The British Royal Family, touring the region in 1947, loved the cosmos flowers.

It is no coincidence that the roads lined with cosmos flowers lead to many memorials of the Anglo-Boer War.

Historians believe that the seeds of the flowers, originally from Mexico, were brought in with bags of feed for English horses during the war and today they flower in luminous marshmallow shades of pink and white from late summer to late autumn.

The roadsides of the south-eastern Highveld come alive with them every year. The heart of the Cosmos Route in South Africa is Secunda, famous for the oil-from-coal Sasol Synfuels plant. Below Sasol is a network of five coal mines that form the largest underground mining complex in the world.

Not far away is the Kinross Gold Mine at Evander. This is the only place in the world where coal and gold are mined side by side. This rich mining land is lushly green in summer, and towering banks of purple clouds rise most afternoons before the inevitable dramatic thunderstorm.

But if you're on a flower tour of Mpumalanga, come here to photograph or paint cosmos flowers in the dramatic light of the Highveld. They are graceful subjects, whether nodding in the breeze at the roadside, or clustered in a jar.

And maybe it's the flat terrain, or the good weather, but the Cosmos Route in South Africa sports no less than five highly-rated golf courses within a 40km radius. There's a Mississippi-styled casino at Secunda and nature reserves around Kinross, Bethal and Kriel are stocked with small game. They're also a bird lover's paradise.

Major roads traverse Cosmos country. But take some time to slip off them and enjoy the riches of this area: the riches beneath the ground, the richness growing from the fertile soil, and the rich autumn colours of the Cosmos Route.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

From Johannesburg or Pretoria, drive south west towards Secunda.

Best time to visit

From late summer to late autumn, roughly February to April.

Get around

Self-drive will give you the most freedom to explore.

What to pack

Don't forget your camera, with a wide-angle lens if you have one.